The Hardest Thing To Do, is the first of three sequels to The Hawk and The Dove trilogy, published by Crossway.
The title of this book was very accurate as far as I was concerned. It arrived in the mail at the worst possible time: I was facing a comprehensive summer school Psychology final in just a few days. It was a major temptation to forgo studying altogether and retreat to a fourteenth century English monastery.
Novels do not generally tempt me. The vast majority of my home library is non-fiction. I don't mean to be boring: I just am. However, if any of you take books by Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen on vacation, or read The Rule of St. Benedict because you are intrigued by church history, you know exactly what I mean. I am irresistibly drawn to the contemplative life.
Modern Christianity both baffles and mystifies me because it seems that at times we have traded the snapshots of community which we see in the New Testament for a business model from Forbes. In our desire to go wide and be successful, we have often, not always, but often, sacrificed going deep. The disciplines of a healthy spiritual life are foreign ideas that we yearn to try on for size. Living in community is something about which we only dream.
St. Alcuin's Abbey has both a business side and a spiritual side to maintain in order to survive. Penelope Wilcock manages to show the trials and triumphs, the conflicts and complications of making that work while weaving a tale about a man called to lead and protect the lives committed to his care. It is not enough to have the weight of the daily care of his imperfect flock; he also has to deal with an unwelcome and unworthy former Christian leader seeking refuge.
Penelope Wilcock did an exceptional job on portraying monastic life and the stress of Christian leadership. She graciously included a Glossary of Terms and schedules which explain the typical Monastic Day and the Liturgical Calendar for the novitiates among us.